Recalled as one of the most famous Orang utan conservation and rehabilitation center in the world, Tanjung Puting National Park is another way to explore yet another mother nature’s greatest creation, the flora and fauna.
Eid Fitr holiday is probably the only time of the year where my family and I got a chance of a pretty long week off. And every year, we would always arrange a travel plan. This year, we made a super random and pretty last minute trip to the Central of Borneo. To the one and only Tanjung Puting! Located in Pangkalan Bun, Central Borneo, it was my first time immersing myself in the deep dark jungle of Borneo. Well, of course it doesn’t sound that scary and horrible, this trip has actually been one of the funnest trip I’d done this year.
We jetted off the plane from Jakarta to Pangkalan Bun with Trigana Air. I honestly just heard of this local flight service this year, that apparently used to travel to many inland destinations in Indonesia. Arriving at the airport, we were picked up from our trip organizer, Be Borneo Tour, heading to Kumai Port. So I should probably mention that this is actually a sailing trip. Much like the ones in Komodo Islands, we will live on board on a wooden riverboat called ‘klotok’ for 2 nights, cruising around the Sekonyer River. Sekonyer river is the start of Tanjung Puting National Park with miles and miles of water that was ever changing. In the beginning of the river delta, the water was mainly salty and it was brown colored. Within hours and days of cruising, we would see the water changing into completely black fresh water, due to the amount of peat underneath the waters. And the color of the water was naturally brownish, like tea or wine. The river surrounding was also very beautiful. Other than it was on a peatland area, it was also lush green with Nipa palm trees and Pandanus tree (screwpine), depending on the water it grew on. Other beautiful flora we could find near the river bank and on to the jungle was fresh pitcher plants! It was really amazing seeing those plants in real life rather from a biology book.
The Klotok boat was pretty awesome. It was quite huge for a total of us 10 travelers with 7 guides, boatmen and kitchen staffs. The boat was big enough that it has a dining table on the top deck with 2 queen-sized bed and 6 single beds at the lower deck, that was stacked up when we didn’t use it. Due to the climate and harsh mosquitos surrounding the jungle, we would sleep inside a mosquito net every night, and it was the coolest thing ever! Every night after dinner, the boatmen would set up our beds on the deck and hang a mosquito net over it, so we would sleep soundly and safe. Oh, and I should mention that we were also spoiled with delicious range of food, 3 meals a day, made fresh right in the kitchen boat! From chicken, to noodles, vegetables, chilli and even fish, were made fresh and was so yummy! Evening coffee and snacks were also included, banana fritters, the local’s delicacy Soto Manggala (so good!) and even ice fruit soup (sop buah) was always so fresh!
So the whole trip was actually to head out to three different Orang Utan “feeding zone”, where it is also used to help scientists observe these orang utans in their habitat. We went to one feeding zone on our first day, it was at Tanjung Harapan. We would get out from our boat and trek the jungle for 20-40 minutes to the observation deck. At every feeding zone there were rangers that brought them bananas and called them out with a hauling sound. Slowly, you can observe the trees started to move and noises come along, where these orang utans– mothers, child and the alpha male came to feed on top of a wooden platform filled with bananas. It was extremely amazing! Tanjung Harapan is also where many medicinal herbs were planted and grown.
The second day, we went to two feeding zones, which are Pondok Tanggui and the infamous Camp Leakey. Camp Leakey was established in 1971 by Dr. Birute Galdikas who spent studying about Borneo’s orang utans encouraged by her late paleoanthrologist professor, Dr. Louis Leakey. She and many staffs on Camp Leakey today still often come to Tanjung Puting to observe wild orang utans. An interesting find when I was enjoying myself observing every feeding, was that there’s always an alpha male or the king of the orang utan at every site. I noticed that many of the orang utans would feed themselves then leave when the alpha male comes. They would either go up back to the trees, or give themselves space from the king.
At Camp Leakey, the famous king of orang utan was called Tom. He was the famous king for years, yet when I was there, there was a new king named Carlos. The rangers and staffs there mentioned that they have no idea where Tom might have gone. He had been missing for a few weeks, therefore Carlos was brave enough to “replace” him. The rangers believe that when orang utans never came back to the feeding zone, they are finally rehabilitated and went back to the wild because they believe they can survive finding food for themselves. And that’s what they think Tom’s case was. “It’s actually good that they don’t come back to feeding for weeks, because that means they are emancipated and able to find their own food. That means the rehabilitation is a success,” said one of the rangers I talked to.
An unexpected and rare thing that happened at Camp Leakey during feeding time. The current alpha male and king, Carlos had an intercourse with a female orang utan! It started out with force (Carlos pulled her leg and she tried to runaway), but finally manage to calm her down and finally doing it — in front of the whole visitors! It lasted for about 5 minutes or more, I can’t remember. But I do remember it being awkward yet an amazing sight! The fact that despite them being animals, what they were doing was very human and somehow tolerable. It was a weird feeling. Even the rangers said it was rare to witness that activity during feeding time!
Fun fact about orang utan: They don’t jump tree to tree like the other small monkeys, they actually use their long arms and legs to swing from one tree branch to another.
Overall the trip was super fun, unexpected and a whole new way to explore Indonesia. It was rare for me to go to the jungle here in Indonesia, including finding the most precious habitants! Other than orang utans, it is no surprise to see other fauna creatures around, such as Proboscis monkeys and hornbills, which are Borneo’s finest, as well as beautiful yet dreadful insects! A visit to Tanjung Puting National Park is definitely a place you don’t want to miss once in your life!
Tanjung Puting, 27-29 June 2017